The influential French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique have given three prospective British & Irish Lions a New Year's boost by including them in their 2008 Dream XV.
Welsh Grand Slam backs Lee Byrne and Shane Williams figure among the threequarters, while Scottish scrum half Mike Blair wins the nod for the No 9 jersey. The 2007 XV included only one player from the four Home Unions, England and Sale Sharks prop Andrew Sheridan.
There are only two Springboks in the side - centre Jean de Villiers and hooker Bismarck du Plessis - while the form team of 2008, the All Blacks, provide four players. Dan Carter, now playing in France with Perpignan, is the only New Zealander behind the scrum, but Richie McCaw, Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock feature in the forwards.
There are three Australians, spearheaded by skipper Stirling Mortlock, two Frenchmen and one Italian, IRB Player of the Year nominee Sergio Parisse. The 2007 side included eight players from the World Cup winning Springbok side.
Midi Olympique Team of 2008
Lee Byrne (Wales); Lote Tuquiri (Australia), Stirling Mortlock (Australia), Jean de Villiers (South Africa), Shane Williams (Wales); Dan Carter (New Zealand), Mike Blair (Scotland); Tony Woodcock (New Zealand), Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa), Nicolas Mas (France), James Horwill (Australia), Ali Williams (New Zealand), Thierry Dusautoir (France), Richie McCaw (New Zealand), Sergio Parisse (Italy).
As the countdown continues for RWC2015, Tournament Chief Executive Debbie Jevans visited the Millennium Stadium to discuss preparations for the eight matches and reveal the positive news that 100,000 tickets for games at the home of Welsh rugby have sold in the last seven days.
Jason Harries is targeting a first win on the World Series circuit this season with Wales. The series returns to action this weekend in Dubai where Harries is part of a team hoping to build from its efforts in round one in October.
Wales skipper Jevon Groves says his side have addressed a few points from Gold Coast and aim to 'hit the ground running' in the next two rounds of the World Series, kicking off with this weekend in Dubai before heading off to South Africa next week.
Wales Sevens manager Steff Thomas is hopeful his side can build from a quarter-final spot in the opening round of the World Series in Australia when his side take part in the forthcoming double header in Dubai and South Africa.